The Loyal Republican | Johnny Isakson

By Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman
Sunday, July 29, 2007

When Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) read last week that Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, was drawing up a campaign plan that called for keeping troops in Iraq until 2009, the first thing the senator thought was, "They're looking for an endgame." That's just as he and other Republicans had been urging, even while recognizing that troops may have to stay well beyond next spring when Senate Democrats are demanding that they come home.

"April of next year and 2009 are a long way apart, and I'm sure a lot of people would go crazy," Isakson said. "But I realize, and any rational person realizes, we are going to have a presence in Iraq for a long time."

Isakson is one of many Republicans who are wearying of what they see as political gamesmanship by the Democrats. A sign of that, he said, was Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), a leading antiwar Democrat, saying last week that he might consider a proposal to offer a new withdrawal plan that doesn't stipulate an end date for the occupation. That would mark a major switch for the Democrats and give them a chance to try to score the biggest vote possible against President Bush's war strategy before Congress leaves this week for its August recess.

"It's an attempt to pick up people they haven't had before," Isakson said. But, he added: "When you have your sons and daughters deployed in harm's way, and you're fighting one of those battles to just try and politically manipulate your strategy to get something to pass -- without looking at the consequences -- [that] is not very smart."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company